Traverse City News and Events

Struggles Of A Mom-And-Pop Pot Shop Owner

Feb. 17, 2020

Stephen Ezell has been in the legal pot business as long as than just about anyone in northern Michigan. He’s lived through the awkward, clumsy legalization of first medical and the recreational marijuana. Ezell says that his business, Interlochen Alternative Health — a medical marijuana dispensary Ezell hopes to one day be licensed to sell recreational marijuana — survives a regulatory system that favors big business over mom-and-pop stores like his, which he runs with his wife, Barbara, and son, Jordan.

In this week's Northern Express — sister publication of The Ticker — writer Patrick Sullivan sits down with Ezell to talk about the evolution of the marijuana business and how a small-time operator can manage to survive. The entrepreneur first became interested in the industry after seeing how marijuana worked wonders for his wife when she was battling ovarian cancer. He's been involved in trying to help others access the drug since 2010, dealing with years of mixed messages from the state on its legality and seeing his initial businesses shut down. Ezell has experienced it all, from recent changes in legislation to battles for permits in Traverse City to competing for business with big industry companies. Despite all his challenges, however, Ezell retains a sense of optimism about the future.

"I do feel like I’m in a good position, and I feel like I’ve earned this position," he says. "I haven’t bought this position, do you know what I’m saying? I mean, we did our due diligence. I never operated for a minute without local permission. We’re going to be successful, we’re going to deal with Green Lake Township, we’re not going to hire lobbyists, we’re going to go in by ourselves like we always did, and we’ll get it done, and we’ll be successful here, I have no doubt whatsoever."

Read more about Ezell's journey as a mom-and-pop pot shop operator in this week's Northern Expressavailable to read online and on newsstands at nearly 700 spots in 14 counties across northern Michigan.

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